Australia wins approval for world's first plain-pack tobacco

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CANBERRA — A world-first Australian law requiring tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in uniform packaging was today upheld by the nation’s top court, a ruling that may set a precedent for other countries to follow.

The High Court dismissed claims by four tobacco firms that the Australian government illegally seized their intellectual property by prohibiting the display of trademarks on packs.

The decision means the nation will become the first country to introduce plain cigarette packs when the law takes effect Dec. 1, with governments in Europe, Canada and New Zealand indicating interest in implementing similar legislation.

The Australian law requires cigarettes to be sold with no company logos and with the same font for all brands on a dark brown background. Graphic health warnings will cover 90 percent of the back of the package and 70 percent of the front.

Once a country implements a tobacco control measure, it becomes easier for other countries to do the same, Canadian Cancer Society’s Cunningham said. Canada was the first to make pictorial health warnings mandatory in 2001 and about 50 nations followed suit, he said.

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